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Surviving prostate cancer could depend on weight at time of diagnosis

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Study again highlights overweight risk of dying from prostate cancer

What does a man's weight at time of diagnosis have to do with prostate cancer? Scientists say men who are overweight or obese may not respond as well to treatment. The finding that comes from a study of 751 Kaiser Permanente patients highlights the importance of weight management for Baby Boomers who sometimes struggle to keep body mass index in check.

Weight gain and prostate cancer both linked to aging

A man's risk of prostate cancer increases with age. So does his risk of weight gain that happens with aging for a variety of reasons related to diet and lifestyle.

Being overweight affects our risk of many diseases. The newest study found men who died from prostate cancer were 50 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.

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Men in the study underwent radical prostatectomy that removes the prostate gland as well as tissue that surrounds the gland. Men with higher body mass index at the time of surgery and who had more aggressive cancer combined were more likely to die.

Lead author Reina Haque, PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, California said in a press release: "We found among patients undergoing surgical treatment for prostate cancer, weight at time of diagnosis is more strongly correlated with prostate cancer survival than many other factors researchers have studied in the past."

The hope is that the finding will lead to more research on the impact of weight loss and other lifestyle factors that can help men survive prostate cancer.

One of the strengths of the study is that the men did not self-report BMI. Also, past studies showing weight can affect response to prostate cancer treatment failed to document when body mass index was measured. More work needs to be done to understand why being overweight or obese could affect outcomes for men with prostate cancer.

A question that remains to be explored also is whether obesity increases the chances of the disease for men in the first place.

The take home message for Baby Boomers who want to take charge of their health is that it is important to maintain a healthy weight throughout life. Prostate cancer claimed 29,720 lives in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute.The current study showed a stronger link between being overweight and dying from the disease than past investigations, making it noteworthy. The good news is that the study shows simple diet and lifestyle choices can help us take control of our health and well-being, even when it comes to serious diseases like prostate cancer.